Inbound Marketing: Its Major Difference to Content Marketing and Its Relevance to the B2B Industry

BY Rhiza Oyos, LAST UPDATE ON January 04, 2017
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Although Inbound Marketing is not a new term, there are still companies who don't understand the whole concept of inbound and how it can help them in growing and establishing profitable business.

In the past (almost) 4 years that Spiralytics has served clients from our locations—Manila, Nottingham UK and, this just in, Spain (Hola!)we find that people often look for companies that provide "Content Marketing", "SEO", and "Lead Generation services" when what they really need is Inbound Marketing. 

 

What is Inbound Marketing?

"Inbound Marketing", is a marketing methodology developed by Hubspot in 2005. The concept is very similar to Permission Marketing, a term that first came out on Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers”, published in 1999.
 
Although the concept of attracting website traffic and converting this traffic to paying customers through valuable and informative content has been around for decades, the introduction of Inbound Marketing to the game has placed a structure to the concept. Since then, Inbound Marketing has become a multi-million dollar industry, sprouting discussion groups and online communities, and changing the way marketers do Content Marketing and SEO over the past decade.

The rise of Inbound Marketing agencies and experts 

Professionals started calling themselves "Inbound Marketing Experts" and job sites started showing job openings for "Inbound Marketing Specialists", making inbound marketing an in-demand marketing discipline and skill.
 
On a personal note, when Jimmy hired me 3.5 years ago, my professional background mostly revolved around SEO, Content Marketing and Digital. He gave me the job designation "Inbound Marketing Manager", except (ssshhh!) I was just learning about Inbound Marketing at the time and didn't have a team to manage yet. Spiralytics being a startup with only 3 employees back in 2013, we used job titles that represented our big, ambitious #careergoals. We knew we wanted to be very good at Inbound and so that's what we set forth to do.

Inbound Marketing in the Philippines

"Inbound Marketing" in the Philippines is often confused with "inbound technical support" or "inbound contact center" jobs. One quick search at LinkedIn gave me a list of "Inbound Marketing" professionals employed by large call center companies. And no, that is not the Inbound Marketing we're talking about around here.
 
By Hubspot's definition, 

Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. Sharing is caring and inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more. 

By publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. 

The Inbound Marketing vs Content Marketing debate

There's a lot of talk about the differences between Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing through the years. Is Inbound Marketing under the bigger Content Marketing umbrella or the other way around? (Answer: Neither.)

Clearly there are significant overlaps, after all, both disciplines involve strategically creating and distributing data-driven content to clearly defined buyer personas, with the intention of leading them through the marketing funnel.

Both disciplines make use of the following in publishing and distributing content to attract potential customers: 

  • SEO.Using keyword research and analysis, and optimizing pages for better search engine visibility and ranking.
  • Blogging. Publishing informative content within the website's domain ("Owned" media). 
  • Social MediaBuilding relationship with peers and influencers in social media and promoting content to your network and extended network.
  • Email Marketing. Using email as a channel to promote content and to connect with readers/potential customers.
  • Influencer Marketing. Reaching out to influencers within the same industry to bring your brand's message to a larger market. 
  • Paid AdvertisingThis confused me at first, I mean, isn't Inbound and Permission Marketing unapologetically uninterruptive? The thing is, even paid advertisement has become more personalized than ever this past two years, making it fit in the inbound practice of creating highly targeted content that wouldn't feel like "interrupting" your target personas because they're most likely what they need. In Content Marketing, Paid Advertisement has been used by marketers to strategically distribute content.

So what's the difference?

Some marketers would say that Inbound Marketing is a subset of Content Marketing, where Inbound is just one way of doing Content Marketing. Others would argue that Content Marketing is the subset of Inbound, where Content Marketing is just one way to achieve Inbound results. 

Both, I believe, are true. 

I think the stark difference is in the medium used and the implementation. 

 

Content Marketing: Fusion of Online and Offline Media

Content Marketing covers a myriad of marketing mediums. Content Marketing Institute traces the roots of Content Marketing as far back as the 1732, when Benjamin Franklin annually published Poor Richard's Almanack to promote his printing business; or in 1801 when a Paris bookstore opened a reading room and published its own newspaper to promote the bookstore.

These days, examples of Content Marketing can be a series of webisodes that promotes your telecom business, like what Globe Business is doing. Or creating inspiring visual content and telling stories on Instagram to promote your brick and mortar business; or putting together informative workshops and gatherings for bloggers to promote your new product; or publishing recipe books to promote a brand. 

I see the online and offline intersection more as a Content Marketing strategy rather than Inbound. You want to create content that will delight/entertain your buyer personas, that will bring them to designated outlets to buy your product, or lead them to a website to purchase items, eventually converting them to raving customers who promote your brand to others also. 

To get this closer to home, here at Spiralytics, we have been creating blog posts about our services for the past 3 years, and that kind of strategy is good in creating buzz, building authority, and increasing our search engine visibility to attract potential clients. (Content Marketing, you guys.) 

But it wasn't until the start of this year that we've become more intentional in creating gated content for the purpose of acquiring leads.

Which brings us to Inbound.

 

Inbound Marketing: Lead Generation through Digital Content

The Inbound Marketing strategy is more intentional in acquiring information about your leads, so that you can create content that's highly specific to their needs.

The existence of sign up forms and automated marketing workflows has become more prominent when the Inbound era began. Inbound Marketing strategy, therefore, lies heavily on creating content within the digital realm.

Blog posts, ebooks, online tools, worksheets, e-courses, free trials on premium tools.. The content being digital is very important because the inbound process is built on a strict digital workflow where a visitor signs up and begins a journey through a highly strategic marketing funnel. (Breathe, guys.)

InboundMethodology.pngHubspot methodology

The deeper you go into the funnel, the more specific the content you receive becomes. The inbound methodology, when done right, is able to do this seamlessly, especially because contacts are readily giving out information about themselves.

Remember that the Inbound premise is hinged upon Seth Godin's Permission Marketing, where content is presented only to prospects who permit or give consent to receive the marketing information.

Is a man handing out fliers that have the URL to a landing page considered inbound? I say, the inbound journey starts when a stranger who happens to receive the flier, goes online, types in the landing page URL on his web browser, reads what's on it, and signs up to signify that he's interested.

 

And this is why Inbound is highly effective for the B2B Industry

While I wouldn't say it's not possible, Inbound for B2C (Business to Consumer) or the retail industry may not be as effective as when implemented in the B2B model (Business to Business). I love how Rand Fishkin explained the similarities and differences of a B2B and a B2C marketing funnel in detail, check this out.

When a company is looking to another business to provide business for them, things can get very technical—the kind you can't fully explain on a first date. And when you're offering technical services and products to another business, the way to convince them is to provide them value long before they invest.

The point of Inbound Marketing is, people don't just trust someone they just met. They want to get to know the person first, see what's in it for them. As an inbound marketer, you're able to build up momentum with every piece of free and valuable content you create for your target market, eventually convincing potential buyers that you have exactly what they're looking for.
 

Is Hubspot the only way to do Inbound Marketing?

No. Hubspot has developed a software that helps users implement an Inbound Marketing system that works, and they do claim ownership of the term. But the inbound methodology can be done in its simplest form through the integration of the following:
  • A Content Management System, such as Wordpress or Squarespace
  • An Email Marketing / Lead Generation Tool, such as Mailchimp, Convertkit or Aweber
  • (Optional) A Landing Page Builder, such as Unbounce or Leadpages. This is optional because landing pages can be done with Wordpress & Squarespace, if you know your way around them.
  • (Optional) A Marketing Automation Tool, such as Autopilot. This is optional because marketing automation is often already built in your email marketing or lead generation tools.
As a Hubspot Partner, everything we need to implement our Inbound Marketing strategy is already within our Hubspot dashboard.
 

In conclusion 

I don't want to leave the Content Marketing vs Inbound Marketing debate hanging in this post. In fact there really shouldnt be a "vs" in there, nor an "or". The right combination of both marketing disciplines will spell a huge difference in your own strategy.
 
It may be a different approach for every industry, or every set of business goals, or every buyer persona. They key is in knowing what's applicable to you based on the circumstances surrounding your business. When you work with Spiralytics, we help you identify specific industry trends and create a custom strategy for your requirements.
 
SEO and Content Marketing Success Story
 

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Riz is Spiralytics' resident blogger and Inbound Marketing Manager. She has 10 years of experience doing SEO, Online Marketing and Professional Blogging before specializing in Inbound Marketing. When she's not blogging, you'll see her holding a camera and taking gazillion photos of her twin girls.

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